Chicago Cubs Lineup: Al Mago at Top, Bryant and Zobrist Return, Q Starts

The Cubs have won three of their last four without their best hitter, but now they’ve got him back for the remainder of the weekend and beyond.

Albert Almora Jr. and Javy Baez will be be trying to keep 10-game hitting streaks alive, which would set up Kris Bryant to drive in some run as he returns to the lineup for the first time since being beaned in Colorado. He’s expected to be rocking the c-flap helmet to offer some added protection, which means all three of the Cubs’ top hitters would have such gear.

Anthony Rizzo is at first and Willson Contreras is behind the plate with Kyle Schwarber in left and back in the sixth spot that has seen him doing all kinds of damage. Ben Zobrist has been activated from the DL and will actually be playing second base (Javy is at short) while Jason Heyward finishes up the order in right.

Y’all, KB is back. Not that anyone was worried, of course, it’s just nice to have him back in the lineup.

Jose Quintana is on the mound with a chance to give the Cubs five straight quality starts, a feat that would be quite impressive given the rotation’s early struggles. It won’t be easy for the lefty, who has had very serious control issues in four previous starts. This will only be Q’s second start at Wrigley, and it’s his first there in decent conditions.

The other was a forgettable effort against the hot-hitting Braves that saw Quintana give up seven runs on seven hits and four walks. He’s been tagged otherwise as well, allowing nearly 88 percent medium and hard contact, and has been walking 5.03 men per nine innings, more than twice his career average.

It’s only expected to be in the mid-40’s at Wrigley today, but the sun will be out and the crowd will be looking for a third straight win over the Brewers. Perhaps that atmosphere can help Q to get his fastball dialed back in and to have a better feel for the curve.

Brewers starter Junior Guerra has cobbled together quite a line over his first three starts. The 33-year-old righty has a 0.56 ERA that comes from allowing just a single run over his first 16.1 innings. He has given up only 10 hits and has walked six while striking out 16, numbers that are actually pretty well in line with his career marks.

Guerra supplements a mid-90’s fastball with a sinker, slider, and splitter, the latter of which has just been devastating at this early juncture. Among all pitchers with at least 10 innings, Guerra’s splitter ranks fourth in baseball with 2.5 runs saved. Even more impressive, his 6.56 runs saved per 100 pitches easily outpaces Shohei Ohtani’s 4.56 for tops in MLB.

It should be noted, however, that he’s only thrown the pitch 33 times. Even so, no one has gotten a hit against his splitter, which has an 85.7 percent grounder rate and 21.2 percent swinging-strike rate. If he’s locating the fastball, that split-finger offering could really be an out pitch for him.

Guerra has mild reverse splits over the course of his career, but they’ve gotten really stark so far through three starts. Not that batters from either side have done much. Righties have a .283 wOBA against him while lefties have a pathetically anemic .207 wOBA. If there’s a ray of hope, it’s that Guerra has traditionally fared much worse when pitching on the road.

Well, that and the fact that he’s been a pretty meh pitcher over the course of his career. And after two relatively stunted offensive performances, the Cubs may be primed to stunt against the Brewers starter in this one.

First pitch is set for 1:20pm CT and can be seen on ABC-7 in Chicagoland (or local affiliates that are syndicating the broadcast) and MLB Network for those of you outside the Cubs’ blackout curtain. As always, you can pick up Pat and Coom Dawg on 670 The Score as well.

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